Plants store nonstructural carbohydrates (NSCs), such as sugars and starch, to use as carbon and energy sources for daily maintenance and growth needs as well as during times of stress. Allocation of NSCs to storage provides an important physiological strategy associated with future growth and survival, and thus understanding the seasonal patterns of NSC reserves provides insight into how species with different traits (e.g., growth form, leaf habit, wood anatomy) may respond to stress. We characterized the seasonal patterns of NSCs in four woody boreal plant species in Minnesota, USA. Sugar and starch concentrations were measured across the year in the roots and branches of two conifer trees, black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.) and eastern tamarack (Larix laricina (Du Roi) K. Koch), as well as in the leaves and branches of two evergreen broadleaf shrubs, bog Labrador tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum (Oeder) Kron & Judd) and leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata (L.) Moench). In general, seasonal variation was dominated by changes in starch across all organs and species. While similar seasonal patterns of NSCs were observed in the shrubs, different seasonal patterns were observed between the trees, particularly in the roots. Our results suggest that species-specific traits likely have consequences for organ-level storage dynamics, which may influence whole-plant growth and survival under global change.
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